Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chapter Fourteen.

     First of all, thanks to everybody who tuned in last night to catch the band during rehearsal. We're definitely going to do that again. We were so happy with the turnout that we damn near forgot we still had an hour of actual rehearsal to go.

     It's Wednesday, and that means it's time for yet another chapter of Making Sh*t Up: An Improvised Life. If you're new to this blog, you should probably back up and catch the last thirteen chapters. There's laughs, a few tears, some really horrible shit, and the time I unintentionally creeped-out a Golden Globe - winning actress. It's worth a read. And off we go!

     Chapter Fourteen
Cancer, Leprosy, Honesty, Sympathy, and Skipping School

Every kid’s eighth grade year is awkward. That is a universal truth. But I will risk a little conceit and suggest that my eighth grade year was more awkward than most, compounded by the fact that, just a few weeks before school started that year, my father had blown his brains out. And, Conroe being the small, gossipy Texas town it was, every kid in school had heard about it. I became an instant celebrity in eighth grade, and for all the wrong reasons.
     I have never had cancer. Or leprosy. But I feel I can relate, if only a tiny little bit, to what it must be like socially for victims of either disease. Not because my schoolmates treated me like something to be avoided at all costs; my father’s suicide didn’t cost me any friends. It’s just that nobody knew what to say to me. Eighth graders can pretty much handle the sarcasm, derision, contempt, scorn, and outright mockery that they get from other eighth graders. That comes with the territory. But sympathy? Pity? What use has an eighth grader for those things from his peers, who were as ill equipped to give them as I was to receive them?
     So, there were a lot of awkward silences betwixt my classmates and me that year, which I started filling in with humor, which seemed a very great relief to my friends. If Larry was clowning around, then he must be okay, and so we need never speak of “the thing” again. The only honest response I got that year was from my buddy, Tony Vilardi. We never hung out after eighth grade, but I’ll never forget what he said to me. It must have been one or two weeks after the school year started, and I was feeling a lot of eyes on my back as I passed people in the halls. Kids hanging around my locker would scatter at my approach, for fear they’d be expected to say something. One morning, as we were hanging around outside waiting for the bell to ring for First Period, Tony looked at me square and said, “So, your dad. He just killed himself, huh?”
     Me: Yeah.
     And then he said the most honest thing I heard from any of my friends that year:
     “Shit. That sucks, man.”
     I did not understand – and so could not have voiced in that moment – that what I felt at those words was a profound gratitude. Because Tony wasn’t offering sympathy; he was simply stating the truth. My dad was dead. And it sucked. He didn’t say he was sorry for my loss. And he didn’t – thank the universe – say, Bless your heart, which I never heard from any of my classmates, but which I heard from practically every adult I came into contact with for that year. Where I come from, Bless your heart often – but not always – is a good Texas Christian’s magnanimous way of saying, You poor fucking bastard. Better you than me.
     I did get a goodly amount of sympathy from my teachers in eighth grade, which I exploited as much as my non-criminal mind would let me. Some let me slide on homework assignments that were incomplete, or that I didn’t turn in at all. How I mainly cashed in on their sympathy was being absent from school. A lot. This carried over into my freshman year of high school, where the one and only time I was called into the counselor’s office was to discuss my chronic absenteeism.
     I wish I could remember the guy’s name. This was still at a time when – at least in small-town Texas in the early 80s – counselors were still the people whose primary occupation was to paddle the asses of wayward students. Actually counseling children was a few years away. But this particular counselor was what I would now call one of the “new breed,” though at the time he was probably considered a leftie-hippie-free-love radical at Conroe High School. First of all, he was younger. And by “younger,” I mean he wasn’t alive during the exodus out of Egypt, which most other counselors at the school obviously were. And secondly, he seemed genuinely concerned – about me.
     He basically said that he’d added up my absences for the year-to-date, and that I had essentially already missed one whole six-weeks (a semester) of my freshman year. He asked me if there was anything going on with me – a health issue, problems at home with parents or siblings – that could possibly account for being gone from classes that much. Here, then, was an adult’s (albeit, a young one’s) honest attempt to “reach” me. I also realized at that moment that this guy had to be new in town, because he didn’t ask me about my Dad’s suicide, which meant he didn’t know. Which meant he didn’t go to the local Baptist church.
     All this I see with the wisdom of hindsight. This poor guy was probably earnestly concerned about my situation, and was really trying to get me to open up. His earnestness had the opposite effect. I slammed shut tighter than a new prisoner’s sphincter on the first day of incarceration. And instead of answering his question, I responded with one of my own.
   “Mr. Whatever The Hell His Name Was, do you have my report card in front of you?”
     “Do you mind telling me what my grades are?”
     “You’re making straight A’s.”
     “And do you have my report cards from the beginning of the year until now?”
     “Yes, I do.”
     “And can you remind me what my grades have been all year?”
     “You’ve been making straight A’s all year.”
     “And can you tell me whether I make it to tenth grade is based on my attendance, or my grades?”
     (Pause) “Your grades.”
     “Then what’s the problem?”
     And that was the end of that. I never got called to the counselor’s office again for attendance issues. In fact, I never got called in for anything. I was not a trouble maker in the classic sense. But I did know just how far I could push people and circumstances, and (most of the time, at least) I knew when to back off. Besides, staying home all the time was getting boring, and the girls were all at school. And I made a shit-load of trouble with girls.

     Next Week, Chapter Fifteen: Giving Myself A Hand

     Make a contribution to the book by clicking HERE. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Music and Sh*t!

This is so happening tonight.

     First of all, thank you to everyone who has donated to the book in the last week. (You know who you are, because I thanked each one of you personally. And it took less than five minutes. You guys are awesomeness on steroids.) 

     Second: I know - FOR A FACT - that I have some readers of the blog who are not a part of my social networks. (Hello, Russia!) But tonight, I thought I'd do something really cool, and bring all of my fans (I use that term in the broadest possible sense. Mostly, you're a fan of mine if you do not actively wish me dead) together in one place, for something that, in theory, should be a lot of fun. I'm in a band. That sounds as cool as you think it does. My band is called McKinney Root. I love my band. When people ask me what kind of music our band plays, I tell them "back porch" music. But for my non- U.S. readers (Russia, Australia, France, UK, Indonesia and - swear to God - Mongolia), the term "back porch" may be a bit confusing. Especially if you live in a part of the world where porches are considered a luxury exclusive to the hyper-rich. Or evil despots. 

     So tonight (1/26/2016) at around 7:30PM U.S. CST, we're going to do a live broadcast of our weekly band rehearsal, via Facebook. If your sphincter is already tightening with excitement, it should be. Here's all you need to do to log on and join in:

     Go find me (Larry Brantley) on Facebook, and follow me by clicking HERE. (Note: I don't "friend" everybody who asks, but you can always follow me; I am equal-opportunity stalk-bait.) Once you're following me, you'll get a notification when we go live with the band rehearsal. Or just make sure you're sitting on my page at 7:30PM U.S. CST. You can hang out with us while we rehearse for our next gig, and even leave comments in real-time. You guys would make me look so cool to my bandmates if you would show up tonight. Seriously. They basically think my readership consists of my sister, and a couple of crazy old cat-ladies in Burbank. Please help me look cool in front of my band.

     One more time: follow me on Facebook by clicking RIGHT HERE. Tune into Facebook at 7:30PM U.S. CST TONIGHT, and you can, in all honesty, utter the words that every human being on the planet longs to speak:

     I'm with the band.

     UPDATE: the hyperlinks above are being total punks and not working properly. To follow me on Facebook, simply search for Larry Brantley, and follow me. My profile pic is a guy in armor, wielding a sword on horseback. And yes. It's actually me. Because I'm badass like that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chapter Thirteen.

     What a fucking month. Three of my musical heroes are in the ground. I'm working my ass off and still can't see how I'm going to make it to February. I've had the hoodie on for most of the last ten days. With the hood up. In the house. (If you don't understand that reference, jump to HERE. It'll make a lot more sense.) I started a Go Fund Me account to see if people actually like my writing enough to financially contribute to it, and got nothing. (Not true. My girlfriend made the one and only contribution, which technically does count, but also might not count, since I sleep with her. Which does not make me a gigolo, because she contributed financially to my writing - not my penis.)

     The vindictive little boy in me just wants to shut the whole fucking thing down. Take my unappreciated marbles and go home. Except I can't. As bad as shit gets, as underwhelming as response may be, I made a decision to put my words in this space. Keeping my promises has never been my greatest ability. Truth to tell, I have a pretty poor history of that.  So I desperately need at least one instance in my life where I stick to my guns, and this is that.

     And so here is the next chapter of my memoir, Making Sh*t Up: An Improvised Life. Promise. Fucking. Kept.

     Chapter Thirteen

   Spear Hunting on a Budget

In my head, it was totally going to be like this. 

 When you’re poor, you do things as a family that other families don’t do. One Sunday my dad was up earlier than usual, doing something very industrious-sounding on the carport. I walked out there to see him sawing an old broomstick in half. Next he made a notch in one end of each of the halves. He then took a long steel nail, and placed it head-side into the notch, leaving the pointed end of the nail exposed. The finished product looked just like a short spear, which I thought was very cool. Holy shit. Was Dad about to take me hunting WITH SPEARS?  Turns out the answer was yes, but not the kind of hunting I’d envisioned.
     Dad piled us all into the Impala, including my mom and little sister (she couldn’t have been more than six, making me around ten), so I knew right away this wasn’t going to be any kind of father/son spear-hunting expedition. We drove out of our neighborhood at Artesian Lakes (the neighborhood with the lake that wasn’t really a lake), and onto FM 2854, also called Old Montgomery Road, a long stretch of two-lane blacktop that connected Conroe to Montgomery, Texas. We’d been driving down this road for about ten minutes when Dad slowed the car, and pulled off onto the shoulder. He ordered everybody out, and that’s when he announced what our family outing was going to be: a treasure hunt for old bottles and cans by the side of the road.
     Dad explained that there was a place we could take bottles and cans to that would give us money in return for them. And that people were always throwing their empty soda and beer cans out of their car windows, so finding them on a much-used stretch of road like this would be easy. Then he opened the trunk and withdrew one of his newly built spears. He looked around for a moment, located an old Dr. Pepper can, and neatly speared it, placing it in a heavy-duty garbage bag he’d tied on to his belt loop. He gave each of us a garbage bag, then pulled the other spear out of the trunk – and handed it to Mom. When I asked where my spear was (I didn’t ask about my sister’s; she was just a kid), Dad informed me that Larenda and I didn’t need spears, as we were much closer to the ground. When I asked him if he at least brought gloves for us to wear, he began to look cross. So I shut up and started looking for bottles and cans.
     Time moves maddeningly slow for children, particularly when they are engaged in an activity they’d really rather not be doing. I tried to make some shit up in my head; I was a treasure hunter. I was the last man on Earth, looking for anything I could use to survive. I was Iron Eyes Cody, the Native American from those “Keep America Beautiful” ads, who had finally stopped crying, got down off his horse, and started cleaning up the country. But I kept getting pulled out of my imagination by the cars that were flying past us on this farm-to-market road. They seemed awfully close, and they seemed to be going awfully fast. I kept looking for Larenda, hoping my baby sister wasn’t straying too close to the road. Mom and Dad were engrossed in the task, and Dad seemed to get angrier as the day wore on. And wear it did.
     A couple of memories stick out from that day. I remember spotting a Miller Lite beer can. I scooped it up, except I grabbed it upside-down, and realized too late that it was still half-full. Rancid beer came pouring out of the mouth of the can and on to my jeans, and it smelled like the devil’s own piss. (It might also be why I do not drink Lite beer to this day.)
     Later in the afternoon, when all four of us were covered in dirt, grime, and the remnants of many bottles and cans, a car slowed near us, pulled over and stopped. The man behind the wheel I recognized as one of the deacons at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. I didn’t know what a deacon was, but I did know that I didn’t like this man very much, because he always seemed to be smiling in a way that suggested he was better than you.  I was close enough to hear part of their exchange.
     Him: “Hello, John. We missed y’all in service this morning. What’re you and your family doin’ out by the side of the road on a day like today?”
     Dad (chagrined): “Just, uh, you know…collecting some bottles and cans for recycling.”
     Him: “Is that right? Well…bless your heart.” And he was smiling that smile, which nowadays I would classify as a shit-eating grin. They exchanged a couple more words and the man drove off, and I could see Dad seething with a barely controlled rage. I was old enough to understand that he was mortally embarrassed. I was also old enough to know that we would be the likely targets of his anger.
     Just at that moment, from what seemed like very far away, we heard a scream. Dad and I both looked back the way we had come to see my little sister, maybe fifty yards away, jumping around and dancing like she had ants in her pants. Which, in fact, she did. Larenda, in her earnest efforts to please, had been dutifully picking up roadside garbage all day. Like the rest of us, she was filthy, sunburned, and tired. But she had evidently found a treasure: a shiny new Coke can that was partially buried in a mound of dirt. She was too young to identify the mound for what it actually was: a fire ant hill. When she successfully pried the can loose from the ground, the little fuckers attacked en masse. Mom reached her first, and as Dad and I arrived Mom was literally stripping my sister down to her underwear on the side of the road.
     Add to this indignity the fact that we had been walking away from the car all day in our search for “treasure.” Dad had, once or twice, gone back to the Impala and driven it along the shoulder to where we were. But at some point he had stopped bringing the car up to us. While Mom was slapping fire ants off my little sister’s skin, I looked back over my shoulder – and realized I couldn’t even see the car. There was no way Larenda could walk that far, so Dad – utterly raging silent by this time – started the trek back to the Impala. I have no idea how long it took him to retrieve the car and pick us up, but it seemed a very long time. And all that time cars were passing us on the road, and slowing, and staring at two dirty little kids, and their dirty mom. And the littlest kid was wailing like a banshee, and the oldest kid was zealously guarding four giant bags of trash – our treasure from a Sunday Family Outing.

     Next Week, Chapter Fourteen: Cancer, Leprosy, Honesty, Sympathy, and Skipping School.

     Make A Contribution To The Book By Clicking HERE.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chapter Twelve.

     So I'm trying to think of a good setup for this chapter. Instead I'm thinking about ten other things, none of which have anything to do with writing. I need to shave. I can't breathe out of one nostril. Why don't we have flying cars yet? I'm out of Scotch. Shit like that. So, while my brain runs right off the rails (again), you should sit back and enjoy the latest installment of my memoir, Making Sh*t Up: An Improvised Life. 

Chapter Twelve
Conroe, Rabid Were-Beasts, and Shitty Detective Work

Hi. I'm in your house. C'mon in.
 There are, as I have learned, consequences for making shit up. I’m not talking about lying. I’m talking about the kind of over-active imagination that can make for an awesome game of Cops and Robbers and Cowboys and Indians with Super Heroes and Super Villains, but that can also get away from you and make you one hundred percent convinced that a snarling, rabid were-beast is in your bedroom.
(I just realized that a theme is beginning to emerge in some of my stories about childhood. A rabies theme. Evidently rabies was an epidemic when I was a kid. At least that’s what I believed, because according to my mom every living thing could potentially give you rabies: a dog, a raccoon, the neighbor’s cat, the neighbors, every species of bird, unicorns and Sasquatch. Some times that shit would just drop out of the sky and land on you, and you were well and truly screwed. According to Mom, rabies would make you foam at the mouth and drive you homicidally insane, and the only way to prevent it was to stay inside, with the doors locked and the drapes drawn. I spent a few weeks living in my mother’s fears – Pink Floyd’s The Wall was still a few years away – then decided that if playing outside meant I had to die a horrible death from rabies because I was attacked by a deranged possum, that was far preferable to a life trapped indoors with Mom, watching soap operas. Way, way more preferable.)
     By the time our family landed in Conroe, I was pretty much over my worry about rabies and, for that matter, cooties. We moved out of the townhouse and settled into a run-down ramshackle on the other side of the tracks (for real – you had to cross the railroad tracks to get to my neighborhood). Dad had taken a night-shift job at the carbon black plant, and Mom was still working for the phone company then. We moved right next door to my Uncle Louie (my Paw Paw’s brother) and Aunt Rachel. Uncle Louie was what we call a “character,” and by that I mean he was slightly crazy and only had one arm. He only had one arm because when he was twelve he had an “accident” with a shotgun, and by “accident” I mean he was twelve and, like all twelve year old boys throughout history, had yet to grasp the full implications of a) proper respect for firearms, and b) his own mortality. And he blew his arm off with a shotgun.
     Paw Paw had found us the house. Not surprisingly, it was in his neighborhood, after he and Mee Maw had to sell the farm and moved to the suburbs of Houston. And even less surprisingly, our house was conveniently located next door to his half-mad brother, whose interest in shooting blue jays with a .22 rifle from his front porch was matched only by his desire to stick his nose across the fence and into my family’s business, to then report his findings, suspicions and prejudices back to Paw Paw. Which he did. Religiously.
     Summers in Conroe were different from summers on the farm. I used the word “suburb” earlier, but really, Conroe was just a sleepy little town forty miles north of Houston, that had no ambitions to be anything other than a sleepy little Texas town. The town was founded in 1881 by Issac Conroe, a former Union cavalry officer, and a lumberman. When he arrived in the nothingness north of Houston after the Civil War, he saw something others apparently did not. Pine trees. A shit load of them. So he built a sawmill, and the demand for lumber made him a very wealthy man. There was also crude oil north of Houston. So Oil and Lumber made a baby, and they named it Boomtown. For a period of a few glorious weeks in the 1930s, the little town of Conroe boasted more millionaires per capita – in the form of oil and lumber barons – than any other U.S. city. Elvis Presley performed at the high school football field in 1955. It was a high time, indeed.
     By the time we got to Conroe, the boomtown days were over. The pines had long been obliterated, and the lumber industry moved on. And in the 70’s the local oil economy came to a screeching halt. What remained for unskilled or uneducated laborers was the creosote plant (which smelled like Beelzebub’s asshole), or the carbon black plant. Both of these products were toxic in their own way, and my dad ended up with a graveyard shift at the carbon black plant, breathing nightly a material most health researchers now agree to be highly carcinogenic. One of the first mornings he came home from his shift, Uncle Louie damn near shot him with his blue jay gun. Dad was so thickly covered with soot and grime residue that Uncle Louie thought a giant black man was trying to break into the house.
     My point is, my sister and I had a lot of time to our selves, in particular late afternoons, when Dad was just leaving for work and Mom hadn’t got home yet. And here begins the tale of the rabid were-beast.
     I believe it was a summer afternoon. The first thing my sister and I would do after Dad left for work was put a record on my stereo and crank up the volume so we could hear it through the house. Then we would make sandwiches. We’d been playing all day (mostly outside), Dad slept through what would have been our lunch time every day, and we were too scared of waking him up to bang around in the kitchen while he was still asleep. (Bad shit tended to befall anybody who woke him prematurely.) So, by the time he left for work around 3PM, we were starving. We would dutifully wave goodbye as he backed down the long driveway of our house on Lakeshore Drive (it wasn’t a lake; it was a man-made pond, and it was infested with water moccasins), then push and shove each other to be first back in the house to get food. We couldn’t afford lunchmeat a lot of the time, and so I had adapted and learned to make my favorite sandwich: Kraft Miracle Whip on white bread. Larenda would make herself a PB&J, and we would stand in the kitchen and eat, with a scratchy album playing full blast from crappy little speakers at the other end of the house, where my room was. That was truce-time between my sister and I, maybe the one time of the day when we weren’t picking at each other or outright fighting. We ate our sandwiches and listened to music and didn’t speak; we were busy resting and fueling up for the shit we were going to give each other later in the day.
     On this particular afternoon we finished our sandwiches and both went back outside to play. I can’t remember what the hell she and her friend were doing, and I really didn’t care because my buddy Dean had brought over his brand new go-kart. It was yellow and shaped like a racing car. Actually, it kind of looked like the white-trash version of the Mach 5. I really wanted to take that go-kart for a spin, and Dean really wanted to play my hand-held Mattel Electronics Football game. Larenda and her buddy could have been playing with knives or rattlesnakes, and I wouldn’t have given a shit.
     Our property had a large oval dirt driveway in front of the house, which was perfect for drifting a go-kart around. I spent the afternoon as Speed Racer, careening around the driveway in Dean’s go-kart, always a hairs-breadth away from slamming into a tree or spinning into the ditch, while Dean sat under the carport and played a first-generation, shitty hand-held video game. (Looking back, that go-kart is probably what led to my deep, abiding love of muscle cars. My dream car is a 1972 Plymouth Barracuda, fully restored. If I ever sell this book, I will buy that car, drive it till the tires fall off, and be buried in it.) Thus went the afternoon, until Dean’s dad whistled him home from several blocks away. Larenda’s friend left at about the same time, and we were headed in to wash up and wait for Mom to get home. I opened the carport door that led directly into the kitchen – and heard a nightmarish sound coming from inside that immediately made me recoil in horror, slamming the door so hard I damn near tore it off its hinges.
     What I heard sounded like something large and alive, raking its claws down the walls of our house, while alternately hissing and spitting. And it was freaking loud. I looked at my sister, who was forming a question that died on her lips as she heard it too. She looked positively terrified, and I’m willing to bet I looked worse than that. Something loud and evil was inside the house. But what was it? And how the hell had it gotten in there? We listened to it for another minute, trying to make out if it was a dog (we didn’t own one at the time), but it sounded larger. And that terrible hissing and spitting was like scary, rabies-infected fingers on a chalkboard. That may have been the first time in our lives that my little sister looked to me to figure something out.
     I don’t think I had ever been brave on another’s behalf before that day. We stood under the carport for several long minutes. I desperately tried to think of some action to take. Obviously, we couldn’t go inside and use the phone to call Mom at work; we didn’t know what was in there, and whether or not it might like to eat children. It never occurred to me to go next door and get Uncle Louie, perhaps because I subconsciously didn’t want to add any more crazy to this already weird situation. I kept coming back to the question: how did a rabid creature get inside the house? (I had already concluded that, whatever it was, it must have rabies. The hissing and spitting were definitely homicidal in tone.) I decided to leave the carport and go around to the back of the house. We had a patio with a sliding glass door. Maybe I could see something, though I wasn’t at all excited about the prospect. With my luck, the rabid were-beast would turn its furry, fanged face and look directly at me just as I was approaching the patio door. It would lunge right through the glass, ensuring that I would be flayed with shards of spiky shrapnel and then devoured in my own backyard.
     Larenda was definitely not in favor of going around back. She wanted to stay rooted to the carport and wait for Mom to get home. Seeing her genuinely scared, I found this sudden, very unexpected need to protect my baby sister. That is a feeling that exists to this day, and was evident during her dating years, when a few of her poorer choices in boyfriends had sudden encounters with big brother in dark parking lots or, in one memorable case, while the asshole was at work. I told Larenda to stay on the carport, that I’d be right back. I moved around the side of the house, through the cyclone fence and into the backyard. As I edged along the brick, trying to stay flat against the side of the house, I tried imagining myself as a hero in one of the many games of Pretend that me and my buddies - Paul and Dean - played often during that summer. But I couldn’t. Because, in the words of Martin Lawerence in Bad Boys, This shit just got real.”
     I came up very slowly on the sliding glass door of the patio. And it was open. Like, all the way open. You could have driven a truck through the fucking thing, which, in my mind, was now the approximate size of the beast lurking in my house. And the scratching and hissing and spitting were even louder from here. I was just barely holding my shit in, and my first thought was to turn around, go back to the carport, fetch Larenda, and maybe go to Dean’s house. When Mom got home and we weren’t there, she’d call around. But wait. We had no way to warn her that something large and monstrous and evil was waiting inside for her. So that was out. Then I did the first brave thing I ever did in my life. I decided to go in.
     Let me be really clear here: I did NOT want to go in. I was pretty sure I was going to soil myself; I was almost as certain I was going to die. Fine, then. If the thing ate me, maybe it wouldn’t want my sister. I couldn’t go back to the carport and tell her my plan, because she would have cried and begged me not to, and that racket would have undoubtedly drawn the creature to our location. I positioned myself just outside the sliding door, back pressed so hard into the brick I actually bruised myself, and waited. And listened. SCRRRRAAAAATCH!! HIIISSSSSSSSSS!! And, this close to the open door, I smelled something. Something burnt. The stench was god-awful, and that’s when I knew I was dealing with a creature quite possibly not of this earth. I watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom from the time I was old enough to understand television until it went off the air. And never once did I see or even hear of a creature that made these kinds of terrifying noises, and reeked this badly. Marlon Perkins knew his shit, and he would have warned us of such a beast.
     When I finally spun through the door, I screamed “Alright, fudge face!!!” at the top of my lungs. To this day, I have absolutely no idea why I uttered that particular phrase. It was literally the un-coolest thing I could have said in that situation. Fudge face?  Who the fuck says THAT? How many heroes of action movies do you know who ever called somebody “fudge face?” You think Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris ever said that shit? My first moment of real courage, and I had to go and take a dump on it with a crappy entrance line.
     Maybe I just needed to shout something – anything – to get me over the threshold. I was now inside the house, and right away understood that the scratching and hissing was coming from the back of the house. Down the hall. The smell was really strong. I almost gagged. But I figured I’d come this far. No turning back now. I crept down the hall to the back of the house, the otherworldly noise growing louder with each step. My heart was in my throat, and my balls had retreated north to my stomach. My parents’ bedroom was right across the hall from mine. They kept their door shut all the time, but mine was wide open. The fucking thing was in my room.
     The stench of rotten, burnt death was in my nostrils, and the sound of my terrible, impending doom was in my ears. It was then I understood the samurai maxim, “Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate.” (I read The Book of Five Rings when I was nine.) I figured saving my baby sister’s life would be a great thing so, desperate and probably a little insane, I spun through the doorway into my bedroom.
     No rabid were-beast. No half-eaten, bloody corpses strewn about. Everything was exactly as I’d left it. My Farah Fawcett poster was still watching over my stuff. I looked over at my dresser, and noticed that my stereo was on. At the end of an album, the turntable arm was supposed to automatically return to the rest position. Except it hadn’t. The needle just kept scraping over the last bit of vinyl on the record, occasionally moving over the label and producing an amplified scratch and hiss. A sound that, in the playground of my overactive imagination, had become a rabid were-beast crouched in my room, and waiting for a victim. I was relieved for several moments before embarrassment set in.
     When I opened the door to the carport I found Larenda, right where I’d left her. I said, simply, “It’s okay.” When I told her what the sound had been, she didn’t laugh at me, or make fun of me. The only thing I saw in her eyes was gratitude. We never talked about it after that day. We never told Mom or Dad about it. I eventually found out that the stench in the house was from Dad over-boiling eggs to the point where the water completely evaporated and the eggs exploded. He’d turned off the A/C and opened the patio door before he’d left for work. I didn’t stop making shit up after that day, either. Something down deep told me never to give up my fertile imagination. Though I did start reading a lot more Arthur Conan Doyle. Because even a half-assed detective could have figured out that there never was a rabid were-beast in my room. I may have learned that I could be brave, but I also learned I was no Sherlock fucking Holmes.

     Next Week, Chapter Thirteen: Spear Hunting on a Budget.

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